Recent estimates suggest that developing countries are home to 1.3 billion of the world's 1.5 billion youth aged 15-24. While the youth population continues to grow rapidly, economic opportunities in the form of access to education, employment, or entrepreneurship are not growing at a proportional rate. Unemployment rates are much higher for youth than for adults, in some countries up to 7 times as high. According to the 2007 World Development Report, "youth make up 25 percent of the working population worldwide, but 47 percent of the unemployed."
Demographic shifts caused by the rural exodus to urban areas, stagnant literacy rates, and static numbers of higher education opportunities all contribute to the need for greater attention to youth and their economic prospects. In many countries, unemployment, underemployment and dubious informal sector employment leave much insecurity. All of these factors are leading to heightened concerns about the potential for disaffected and idle youth to participate in potentially destabilizing or destructive activities.
USAID is committed to supporting innovative approaches to tackling this complex challenge. USAID's Microenterprise Development office (MD) is also committed to ensuring that development programs have the best possible outcomes and impact on youth. MD contributes through funding events, evaluation and other research; through the development of promising practices and guidelines; and through direct project funding. Through these efforts, MD helps create sustainable economic opportunities for youth.